Rodgers roused by Reds recovery

Hernanes’ future at Lazio continues to be called into question,

but his agent says the midfielder is happy where he is.

Reports in Italy suggest that the Brazilian is a January

transfer target for Inter Milan, while a number of other clubs are

also said to be closely monitoring his situation.

Hernanes has spent the last two years in the Italian capital,

during which time has made over 100 appearances for Lazio.

His representative insists the 27-year-old is intent on taking

in many more outings, despite rubbishing claims that talks

regarding a new contract could soon be opened.

“I’m not planning any meeting with Lazio and we are not thinking

about an extension to his contract, because there is no need,”

Joseph Lee told calciomercato.it.

“His current deal expires in 2015 and there is plenty of time to

talk about it.

“The future? Hernanes is happy in Rome, and with the new coach,

and the team is going well. There is no reason to think about a

move.”

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The much-travelled striker linked up with the Lilywhites over

the summer after dropping into the free agent pool.

He impressed during pre-season, earning himself a short-term

contract.

The 32-year-old has netted on a regular basis for Preston in

their League One campaign and Graham Westley had been hoping that

he would agree to stay on.

Sodje is, however, understood to have turned down the chance to

commit himself to the club, according to Sky Sports.

He has been working on a month-to-month contract and has snubbed

the opportunity to prolong that agreement.

The goalkeeper, 20, who was tied to the club until the summer of

2014, has penned an extended deal that will keep him at Brunton

Park until 2015.

Boss Greg Abbott told the club’s official website: “Mark keeps

improving and that is good news for all of us.

“We have seen already this season that he is ready to do a job

and we think he is just going to get better and better.

“This gives him a chance to really focus now and to push himself

on even further.”

The Newcastle-born keeper has made 13 appearances for the

Cumbrians this term.

Serbia have been fined 80,000 euros (£65,000) and

ordered to play a match behind closed doors following racist

chanting and violence towards England’s Under-21 players.

FA general secretary Alex Horne said the sanctions did not send

a “strong enough message” about racism, and that the governing body

will appeal against two-match and one-match bans for Steven Caulker

and Tom Ince respectively.

Rio and Anton Ferdinand also criticised the sanctions on Twitter

contrasting it with a 100,000 euro and one-match ban handed to

former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner for displaying a betting

firm’s logo on his underpants during Euro 2012.

UEFA’s control and disciplinary body also banned four Serbian

players and two coaches for varying terms after ugly scenes marred

the end of the European Championship play-off in Krusevac in

October.

Horne said: “We are disappointed with the sanctions levied by

UEFA with regards to the racist behaviour displayed towards

England’s players.

“Let’s be clear, racism is unacceptable in any form, and should

play no part in football. The scenes were deplorable and we do not

believe the sanction sends a strong enough message.”

Anton Ferdinand tweeted: “Wow UEFA ain’t serious with their

punishment… So showin a sponsor is worst than racism and

fighting!”

His brother Rio added: “Uefa are not serious at all on racism.

Fines do not work at all. They have zero impact on

federations/clubs/fans/players £fact.

“Uefa need to talk to this generation…..they don’t seem to be

up to date on this issue?? Harsh punishments needed as a deterrent

£simple.”

Sports minister Hugh Robertson, who had written to UEFA

president Michel Platini demanding tough action for the racist

abuse, also expressed his disappointment.

Robertson said: “I am disappointed in the punishment that has

been handed to the Serbian FA given the widespread racist abuse

that England’s Under-21 team suffered that night. Racism is

completely unacceptable and we need tough sanctions to help combat

it.”

The FA had reported the racist abuse to UEFA plus a number of

other incidents.

Full-back Danny Rose, who was dismissed after the final whistle

for kicking the ball away in anger, complained he had been

subjected to monkey chants throughout the match and as he left the

pitch.

Serbian FA secretary general Zoran Lakovic appeared to suggest

that the UEFA official prosecuting the charges had also demanded

tougher action.

Lakovic said in a statement: “If we take into account what the

drastic proposed penalty by the disciplinary inspector Jean-Samuel

Leube we have not been hit so hard.

“I believe that this is a final warning to all of us who work in

Serbian football, including coaches and players and fans, because

for even the smallest mistake UEFA can now impose the most rigorous

punishment.”

Lord Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, condemned the

sanction as “a paltry slap on the wrist”, adding: “Again we haven’t

seen decisive action from UEFA.”

Piara Powar, executive director of European anti-discrimination

body FARE, said UEFA had failed to display the necessary

leadership.

Powar said: “We are disappointed in the totality of the sanction

handed out to the Serbian FA. The original offences warranted a

more severe collective punishment than a ban on spectators for one

match.

“This is a moment in which leadership to challenge

discrimination is needed from all authorities. This sanction falls

short of that objective.

In relation to Ince and Caulker’s bans, the FA said they were

surprised at the action and that the players had merely protected

themselves.

Horne added: “It is The FA’s vehement belief that its players

and staff acted correctly in the face of provocation, including

racist abuse and missiles being thrown.

“We are therefore surprised to see that two of our players have

been given suspensions. We shall await UEFA’s reasoning but it is

our intention, at this stage, to support our players and appeal

these decisions.”

England Under-21 head coach Stuart Pearce added: “I am concerned

to see our players suspended by UEFA and we will continue to

support them. I maintain that our players played no part in the

aggression. From what I witnessed our players and staff were forced

to protect themselves in the violent scenes that followed the

game.”

Serbia fitness coach Andreja Milunovic and assistant coach

Predrag Katic were both banned for two years, part of the ban being

suspended for three years in each case.

Four Serbia players were also banned – Goran Causic for four

matches, Ognjen Mudrinski and Filip Malbasic for three and Nikola

Ninkovic for two.

Serbia and the FA have three days in which to lodge an appeal –

while UEFA themselves can also appeal against the control and

disciplinary body if they too think the independent commission have

been too lenient.

Early fixtures against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and

Manchester United contributed to the Reds’ worst opening to a

league campaign for more than a century.

It has taken a while to claw their way back but they head into

this weekend’s fixtures only four points adrift of fourth

place.

Last Sunday’s win at West Ham was the first time in almost a

year Liverpool had won back-to-back league matches and having

progressed to the last 32 in the Europa League, Rodgers senses

something of a turnaround.

“You’re always striving to have more and be better but as I sit

here today, having experienced the last six months, I’m quietly

pleased with how it’s evolving,” said the Northern Irishman, who

took over from Kenny Dalglish in June.

“We’re a long way off where I want us to be, of course, but

we’ve shown we’re making good progress.

“By all accounts Liverpool have had a disastrous start but we’re

four points off the top four and if we had a little bit more luck,

we actually could be in there now.

“The great encouragement is we’re only going to get better.

“I hope that we finish this year strongly. 2012 has been an

emotional year for the football club, we want to finish it on a

high.

“We can then go into the next six months and push on, because

that’s when you take care of business and in particular the last 10

games.

“If we can arrive in January in and around that top four then we

can really put our foot to the floor, when the confidence will be

improved even more and players will be aligned with what we’re

trying to achieve.

“I believe we can have a good second half of the season.”

There was some more good news for the club after goalkeeper Brad

Jones signed a new contract, joining the likes of Luis Suarez,

Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jonjo Shelvey who have all extended

their deals since Rodgers’ arrival in the summer.

The Australia international believes he has proved himself to

Rodgers after the manager initially cast doubts over his long-term

future at the club.

“When he came in I don’t think he was too sure about whether I

was going to stay or not and I had to prove to him I was worthy of

being here,” Jones told liverpoolfc.com.

“He was very honest with me at the start and said maybe things

weren’t going to work out.

“But he was then just as honest to come and say to me I’d done

well and proved myself to him.

“That’s what you want from your manager – somebody that’s

honest, that you can talk to and is going to help you progress as a

player.

“He’s a big influence. He’s a very positive guy and somebody

that wants to be amongst the players, talking to them and making

sure they know what he wants.

“I’m happy to stay on and happy the club have been supportive

with me and seen enough to want to keep me here longer.”

Jones has made 10 appearances so far this season, by far his

best run in the side having amassed a total of just 14 since

joining from Middlesbrough in 2010.

Despite his up and downs at Anfield he hopes to be part of a

successful side over the coming years.

“Obviously there was a difficult time in the middle of that and

three managers in that space of time is difficult because football

is very much about opinions,” he added.

“Some people rate you more than others and I think I’ve found

that in my time here at Liverpool – some managers have thought more

of me than others.

“I said when I signed here it was a dream come true. It was

something I’d wanted as a young boy – and that hasn’t changed.

“I want to stay here as long as I can. At the minute, the club

is on a progression and we’re improving a lot.

“It’s a good time to be here and I’m sure in the next couple of

years I’ll be part of a successful squad.”